Behind-the-scenes of the gore FX!
Past journal entries:
– Ryan Rotten, Managing Editor
Laid to Rest was a challenge, not gonna lie about that.
The effects in the film were tricky. Right from the get go Rob wanted to make sure that every make-up effect we did was augmented digitally so that was a refreshing approach. His idea was that in a world of progressive scan DVD players and DVR boxes nobody should be able to freeze frame the image and figure out how the effect was achieved. Almost all of Laid‘s make-up effects were touched up digitally; somehow, the only effect that was left completely raw was Johnathan Schaech’s face coming off. There was an attempt to put his real eyes onto the prosthetic face we used, ultimately, it stood out too much and the original head was able to pull off the gag. That’s my favorite trick in the film, and I believe the audiences who have seen it love that one the most too.
Digital came in on this effect early on in the progression. What the gag really is, is three parts. The first part of the gag is Johnathan with his face stuck in the window of the car, we shot a clean take of him rehearsing with no knife at all. Then we broke him from set and took him back to the trailer for about an hour and a half and applied a prosthetic piece, very reminiscent of the old Steve Martin arrow in the head gag. The knife was a prop that was cut at the appropriate lengths and had a vacu-form strip that contoured Johnathan’s face attached to it. On top of that we placed a silicone appliance that looked like his cheeks were sliced by the blade. The final touch to this piece was a mouth insert of the knife that he could bite down on which was fit exactly into position so the parts of the knife lined up. This way when the pieces were all in line you could see the blade in one side of his mouth, through his mouth and out the other side.
Overall, I think the make-up really sold it well. Then we put Johnathan back in place with his prosthetic make-up on and had him react to the knife hit. The CG department morphed the two shots and added a 2D CG version of the knife entering frame with motion blur added to that for effect and blended that into the reaction so when you see the effect he goes from standing there talking to a knife entering frame and slicing all the way through his face.
The next part of the effect is the knife being pulled from behind and taking off the entire front of Johnathan’s face, erupting in a geyser of blood from his skull. To achieve this we made a cast of Johnathan’s head and produced a clay pour from the life cast. We cut the face portion out of the clay pour and sculpted all the anatomy on the inside of the head and made a mold of that. From that mold, one of our sculptors, Eric Koo took the face piece and sculpted it down onto the mold of the anatomy so it was an appliance that blended off onto the fake head. He did an amazing job with this. We made a copy of that and produced a silicone final and put that all together. Finishing touches were added and we shot the scene inside Almost Human studios so we had complete control over the whole process. I just remember we used my car for the scene and one of our effects technician’s (Scotty Fields) was having a little too much fun with the blood. They called “cut” and the head was still squirting blood. Did I say “squirting”? I meant gushing and shooting all over the place. He seamed to be having a great time dousing the entire inside of my car with sticky fake blood, I, on the other hand, wasn’t very happy with him that night! It all came out easy though at the auto detailers. So I took him off the shit-list once the car came back clean, but in retrospect if he hadnât been so crazy with the blood the shot wouldnât have come off as gruesome as it did. Props to him for that one.
One of the other really hard tricks to pull off was another character – I won’t tell you who – gets a knife in their temple. We had to make a duplicate head of the actor/actress that had to line up on set perfectly with the live person. This is not as easy as it sounds, we had so many things going on inside the head that it was hard to move it into a position as relaxed as the real person. We then put some tracking dots on this person’s face and the CG team was able to lay parts of our fake head with a knife in it onto the real person and make a very seamless effect. In the movie you’ll see this person’s eye reacting to the knife brushing across the back of the eyeball and you’ll see blood that wasn’t on this person’s face composited on. The CG team did an amazing job with that trick. Also when the knife is retracted the person’s eye stretches with the blade as it withdraws. It worked out really well but was a nightmare to film on set because of the logistics and not having an expensive switcher to line up the shots meant we had to be creative with how we brought it together.
Those two parts of the film were the coolest to watch for me because I am pretty sure people will wonder exactly how we did it.
The film was so much fun to work on overall, the stress levels could get really high with the time we had to do things and the effects had to work well the first time on most of the set-ups, which they didn’t always. I was glad that we have the computer as a tool to help out with this. When you’re shooting a scene and you have such limited time to do it, sometimes you need that extra tool to just go back and fix minor things that would be too hard to orchestrate on set perfectly. It was also stressful because Rob is not like a normal director, he has been doing effects for years, he has taught me so much about this stuff that the effects in Laid had to be perfect. He knew exactly how he wanted eyes to twitch or parts of a head to come off and where the blood should be. He was very exact in his vision of the film and if the effects didn’t live up to that it was all on me this time, he was very precise on what he expected from me. Most directors wouldn’t pay that much attention to detail, again that’s what will make this effort stand out and it’s better to have a director know exactly what he wants than to not have a clue!
I had three people help me on set, two of whom were still in high school and way beyond their years. They were these very talented and eager 17-year-old kids from Maryland named Christian Quarantillo and Scott Simpson who we constantly referred to as the “old married couple.” Every time these two would get into a debate or argue or rag on each other or fight they acted as if they were in their 60s, married and tired of their marriage for 40 years. There were many times while driving to set that the driver nearly ran off of the road in shock at what these two kids would say. They should have their own reality TV show I wouldn’t miss an episode. They were an enormous help as was Crystal Soveroski who also assisted. The difficulty in this is that these three hadn’t worked with us before and I had to train them as I went, so we had to do the effect, teach them how to do certain parts of it and get the stuff done on time. It was a rough schedule. But without their eagerness and willingness to ditch school for a movie shoot I would have not been able to do it.